Thursday, 31 December 2009

Today I plan to tie my own shoelaces

Seriously. The pig farmer's comedy knee is up to its old tricks and, in football parlance, I'm sidelined.

Mick McCarthy's plans to reshuffle the Wolves' back four and Ireland's defence of rugby's Six Nations championship are being rethought as I write.

The knee had been growling at me for some weeks, never quite wanting to bend as far as I wanted it to.

Then the horses got out. The pig farmer, in an act of extreme stupidity, didn't bolt the gate quite firmly enough last Sunday and the next thing we knew our neighbour June was on the phone asking if we'd mislaid any livestock.

Rounding them up was the usual sorry sequence of running about, tripping over and general incompetence - hard on the knee and, sure enough, later that night it was up like a balloon and throbbing gruesomely.

The following day I was banished/helped to the sofa, Mrs Pig Farmer threatening me with dire consequences should I try to do anything around the farm. Still, regular cups of tea, full remote control privileges, a tin of Quality Street and a good book made the whole situation bearable.

I finally made it down to see Dr Karl who gave me that "we've been here before, haven't we?" expression, got me some industrial strength painkillers and promised to fix me an x-ray just as soon as I'm strong enough to get to Kirkwall.

So, now I'm down to the toffees and coffee creams/cremes (does anyone really like coffee chocolates?), I've started Magnus Magnusson's history of Scotland (fill in the next bit yourself), wondered what would happen to the BBC if David Tennant was killed in a car accident, watched Wolves concede five goals without scoring one over 180 minutes and fretted about the piglets.

Although they seem to be getting along just fine without me.

And, Mick, I'll let you know just as soon as I'm fit again. Anywhere across the back four will be fine.

Friday, 25 December 2009

Cum On Feel The Noize

Christmas just isn't Christmas without a bit of Slade - not in our house anyway.

But rather than put up Merry Christmas as last year, here are the lads in all their magnificence with THIS absolute nugget from the early 70s when Wolves were winning the League Cup and getting to UEFA Cup finals.

Dave Hill had just been to the souvenir shop at the Tutenkhamun exhibition.

Happy Christmas again.

Thursday, 24 December 2009

Ho ho ho

"What do you fancy doing on Christmas Day," asked the pig farmer, imagining long, atmospheric walks along lonely Westray beaches, mulled wine in front of the fire and a dinner from the pages of Dickens.

"Well," said Mrs Pig Farmer, after some thought. "I was thinking about eating as much food as I can fit in and getting shit-faced."

I love it when we have a plan.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Patented Odour Elimination Technology - it says here

Owen the nice-but-dim collie-spaniel cross loves the beach. He likes nothing better than to chase stones the pig farmer sends skipping across the shallows. In Owen's world, a walk just isn't a walk unless it involves a trip to the seaside.

So, after a few days confined to the farm because of poor weather and the pig farmer's busy schedule (really), Owen was delighted to get down to the wide expanses of Tuquoy Bay.

Stones were thrown, splashing was made, tail was wagged manically - life was good.

We turned to go back and were 20yd from the car when the day took a turn for the whiffy. Owen found something long dead and deeply unpleasant. What's a boy to do? That's right, roll in the bloody thing.

I hurried the lad back to the car, stuffed him in the back with the two terriers and - a green fug rapidly filling the car - set off for home, a little under two miles away.

After a couple of years dealing with pigs, chickens and ducks, the pig farmer is used to all kinds of nasty smells, but as I turned onto the island's main road I was weeping like an England footballer while desperately suppressing the gag reflex.

Back at Pig Towers, Owen was puzzled and disappointed to be left outside while I went in to warn Mrs Pig Farmer. A bath with Dettol was run, special dog shampoo was dug out from the back of a cupboard and the lad was led in.

He was remarkably good as I soaped him down from head to toe - twice. Wash, rinse, repeat. He emerged from the tub a little subdued, but lovely and fluffy. Seriously girls, if you want to add body then I can't recommend Bob Martins highly enough.

The trouble was, he still stank. Another bath seemed way too much trouble, so Mrs PF had a rummage under the sink and found just the thing.

Has anyone else's dog ever been dosed in Febreze?

The Steenyha' Stench forces Westray residents to take desperate measures

Friday, 18 December 2009

Unlucky for some?

I'm not a superstitious man, so I'm not worried in the slightest that Molly has just produced 13 piglets.

You have to hand it to pigs, they make next-to-no fuss about the whole giving birth thing. Maybe they're just better designed than humans.

I checked Molly about 10.30pm at which point she was only too happy to tuck into a snack of raw tatties. A further inspection at 1.15am revealed six piglets already getting stuck in to the milk and an hour later Molly had fired out another seven.

The pig "farmer" fussed around with warm water, Dettol and towels. I tried steering the piglets towards the teats, but gave up when it became apparent they were finding them quicker when I left well alone.

So now it's coffee, a very quiet kitchen, half-hourly checks and wondering how Molly's going to cope when they're a bit bigger.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


I'm never too sure whether I like horses. Of all the animals on the "farm", horses are the ones I haven't really got the hang of.

I'm always painfully aware that the whole human-horse relationship is based on nature's most gigantic confidence trick. Horses are big (even the small ones) and, by and large, pretty strong. People tend to be much smaller and less powerful, especially, it would seem, in the case of those who ride horses. You don't see many jockeys playing prop for Harlequins on their days off, do you?

That's why I struggle to like and respect horses. If they had the brains of, say, a pig or a Jack Russell, they'd probably be standing for Parliament by now. . . well, county council at least.

Another reason I'm iffy about horses is that they're unpredictable. Dotty the mare is from the darkest bandit country of South Armagh, which probably explains a lot. All those late-night raids by the SAS can fray the nerves of the strongest among us. Why they can't turn up at a reasonable hour (11am for coffee, perhaps?) is beyond me.

Anyhoo. . . Dotty's also in foal, which explains even more, but only up to a point. I recall ex-Mrs Malc being a tad on the kranky side while pregnant, but she never tried to remove my head with a well-aimed hoof. Maybe she just never thought of it.

All the old goalkeeper* reflexes have come in handy just lately, especially at dusk (about 3.45 here at present) when Dotty is in a hurry to get at the dinner-pail.

I quickly realised that chasing her wasn't going to work, even if my knees had been up to it. Stalking her proved to be a pain in the rear and gentle persuasion was a dismal failure. We have a professional horseperson in the family and Amy even tried to talk me through it over the phone in the manner of a 70s disaster movie. "Use the bridle, show her who's in charge," she said. "If I can get f**king close enough, and she knows exactly who's in charge," I thought.

Yesterday, in a change of routine, she gave up trying to kick me with her back feet and tried bucking and rearing in the style of Champion the Wonderhorse, alerting the townsfolk to a landslide in the pass.

"What's up Champion? Is there trouble down at Broken Wheel Ranch?"

"No, I'm just worried those two shortarse Shetlands will get to my tea before me."

I then pulled my masterstroke. Bribery. A quick visit to the veg garden later, carrots were handed over, bridle was applied and the pig "farmer" was leading herself in like he knew what he was doing.

You never have this kind of trouble with pigs.

* Shrewsbury hockey club 3rd XI 1982.

Dotty and Amy in action before some big competition winner had his way with her (Dotty)

Thursday, 3 December 2009

High eggs-citement

So the barn needed reorganising and that involved moving a stack of about 50 bales from the dampish bit near the door to a drier area and making the whole thing a bit neater.

I'm on my own at the moment with Sal and Pat currently south on their pre-Christmas visit, but no problem. I reckoned on a couple of hours and the exercise would be good for me. Bob the hen seemed very interested in the proceedings.

The first dozen or so came from the top and round the edges - easy. The next few proved a little more difficult. I was trying to avoid using a ladder and that involved gently moving bales out from the side of the stack.

You can see what's coming - I find it hard to believe I didn't.

I shifted the wrong bale, looked up to see the edifice tottering, cried "oh bollocks!" and stepped aside smartly as bales bounced to earth around me.

And there, right in the middle of the chaos, was a bale with a pale brown egg sitting on it. Bob, from the safety of the stable door, looked quite pleased with herself.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Words eaten

Credit where it's due - part 1.

A couple of weeks ago I lampooned Orkney Council for giving us wheelie bins along with instructions on how to make sure they would never wheelie again.

But this evening I spent 20 minutes sorting out cans, bottles and plastic into different coloured bags, ready for Westray's first collection of recyclable stuff. It's a big step forward, I believe, and I'm happy to do my bit to make it a success.

Still don't get the wheelie bin thing, but there you go.

Credit where it's due - part 2

I'm still sore after Ireland's scandalous elimination from next year's World Cup by the "hand of Frog", but that didn't stop me from sitting back and marvelling at Barcelona's (Henry and all) 1-0 win over Real Madrid.

It was a breathtaking game that I just didn't want it to end. It was almost perfect. When football is played like that it's so much more than a game - it's art.